A teenager flees war in northeast China (Japan’s 1931 invasion) and ends up working as a songstress in a restaurant in Shanghai. When her foster parents decide to sell her to a thug, she runs away with her boyfriend from across the lane. Her sister, Xiao Yun, who has been forced into prostitution, attempts to escape their foster parents too, with tragic consequences.
Features two hit songs by Zhou Xuan, “Song of the Four Seasons” and “Songstress at the Ends of the Earth,” and charming performances by her and co-star Zhao Dan, one of the era’s best comic actors. A genre-defying tragicomedy focused on the lives of the lower classes, following on Yuan Muzhi’s directorial debut, City Scenes (1935).
Alternative English titles: Street Angel, Angels on the Street
Written and directed by Yuan Muzhi
Studio: Mingxing (Star)
Date of release: July 21, 1937
Cast: Zhao Dan, Zhou Xuan, Wei Heling, Zhao Huishen, Wang Jiting, Qian Qianli, Yuan Shaomei
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea
See the video lectures and other material on the Street Angels (1937) module of the Chinese Film Classics online course.
Street Angels (1937) is discussed in chapter 8 of the book Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949.
Zhou Xuan 周璇
Zhou Xuan 周璇 was famed as a "golden voice" of the Chinese cinema and phonograph industries before her premature death
Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1929 (2021), by Christopher Rea
An essential guide to the first golden age of Chinese cinema, offering detailed introductions to fourteen films.
Crows and Sparrows 烏鴉與麻雀 (1949)
An epochal film, produced and set at the end of civil war, centering on a fight over housing. Who will stay and who will go?
Song at Midnight 夜半歌聲 (1937)
Phantom of the Opera and Nosferatu meet underground revolutionary history in China's first horror-musical.
City Scenes 都市風光 (1935)
Yuan Muzhi's experimental directorial debut shows a country family's farcical attempts to make it big in Shanghai.